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Pas-sport: Taking MENA’s student athletes global

Pas-sport is unlocking golden opportunities for aspiring student athletes from the MENA region to advance in their fields by connecting them to sports scholarships abroad.

Growing up a tennis player in Egypt, Nada Zaher knew she wanted to pursue college sports, but struggled to find the right information and connections when it came to applying to university.

She uncovered the process step-by-step and reached out to many coaches in different universities. Through her own hard work and diligence, she managed to get the coveted opportunity to study at Columbia University,

“It really shaped who I am today,” says Nada. Her own journey made it clear that sports scholarships abroad are not easily accessible, especially to those in the MENA region where there is a lack of resources educating students about the process.

Currently, the global college sports recruiting market is estimated at $7 billion, and the process requires a lot more strategy and planning than it did a decade ago, making it harder for students to appeal to coaches.

After gaining experience in a decision-making role in her previous job, Nada felt a boost of confidence and decided to venture into entrepreneurship with a solution to this problem in mind.

She moved back to Egypt in September 2018 and went on a solo mission scouting the top athletes in the fields of squash, tennis, and swimming. She used social media to personally reach out to talented young athletes and their parents, explaining the process and how she could help them.

From the first group of athletes Nada scouted, she picked 10 athletes to guide through the application process, connected them with the right coaches and successfully got eight of them full scholarships.

Meanwhile, Nada’s co-founder and CTO of Pas-sport, Youssef Hammoud, worked on automating the process and in January 2019, they launched their online platform.

Pas-sport – one of the startups from Womentum 2019, a women in tech accelerator by womena® in partnership with Standard Chartered – now has over 400 athletes and 200 US colleges subscribed to their platform.

Their B2B approach is tailored for schools, sports clubs, and other educational institutions interested in partnering with Pas-sport, where they hold information sessions and offer guidance to the student athletes.

With their B2C model, they work individually with athletes for a consulting fee, guiding them in getting the most out of their junior and senior years to become scholarship-ready.

While expanding their team, they were introduced to Rami El-Erian who had recently moved back to Egypt after working in the athletics department of the University of Baltimore. He was introduced to Nada and soon after joined the Pas-sport team as the COO.

Rami himself was an athlete growing up, following in his father’s Olympic pentathlon footsteps and later, pursuing his passion for soccer playing for his university team.

“You see all these talents but at the end of the day, they don’t have the information they need to make a decision like that,” says Rami, elaborating on the lack of information and the economic barriers that make athletic advancement difficult for families.

The team has found some challenges in introducing the concept of Pas-sport to the region, especially since it appeals to a very specific customer base. They hope to eventually offer athletes connections to universities globally and expand Pas-sport to a Linkedin-like platform that connects the global sporting community.

“There are certain criteria that they have to fall under to be eligible to play in college sports in the US,” explains Rami. “We need to make sure our marketing is done directly to those people.”

Pas-sport now has 16 success stories under its belt, and is actively working towards building a strong contingent in each sport.

“Some sports we’re obviously highlighted on the map. Squash is an easy sell. Soccer, with the benefit of Mohamed Salah there is a buzz in Egypt. We have Farida Osman, a huge Olympic swimmer,” says Nada.

She believes that Pas-sport can turn international attention towards this part of the world, creating more opportunities for young aspiring athletes.

“This is our time to accelerate and start making revenue. We have a lot of users and we have a lot of trust,” shares Nada. “Once everyone knows about the process, it’s going to be a lot easier to sell and scale faster.”

Set in the innovative ecosystem of Berlin and the bustling investment hub of Dubai, Season 2 of Womentum Series follows the journey of entrepreneurs from MENA’s top female-led tech startups as they go through a four-month accelerator. Join us as we dive deeper into the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the challenges they face as they build and grow their businesses. Check out Season 1 of the series!

Read more #WomentumStartup profiles: FreshSource, Luxury Promise, MakerBrane, Dabchy and Dimension 14.